Best Ecommerce Platforms for Small Businesses

Best website builder for small businesses

 

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When we tested online stores, we found 👑 Shopify is the best for small businesses. But read on for more recommendations, depending on your specific needs.

What are the best ecommerce platforms?

  1. Shopify: Best online sales platform
  2. Wix: Best for bookings and services
  3. BigCommerce: Lowest transaction fees
  4. Square: Best free plan
  5. Squarespace: Best looking online stores

Click any of the above links to go straight to the provider’s website where you can try a free trial.

We know you’re not a web design expert, and you don’t want to spend hours writing out sales tax calculations by hand.

Instead, you need a user-friendly website that sells your products plus an easy-to-manage inventory system.

That’s why we’ve done the hard work, testing and comparing the market-leading online store tools. Below, you’ll find our comparison table followed by individual reviews for each platform.

Quick comparison: Best online store tools

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0 out of 0

Wix

BigCommerce

Square Online

Squarespace

Score
4.3
Score
4.7
Score
4.4
Score
4.4
Score
4.7
Best For

Advanced sales features

Best For

SEO support

Best For

Multichannel selling

Best For

Payment integrations

Best For

Image-heavy websites

Price Range
Paying for one year upfront

£5-£344/month

Deal: First month for £1

(Enterprise pricing available)

Price Range
Paying for one year upfront

£14-£119/month

£12.60-£107.10 with code “TAKE10”

(Enterprise pricing available)

Price Range
Paying for one year upfront

£23-£240/month

(Converted from USD; Enterprise pricing available)

Price Range
Paying for one year upfront

£0-64/month

(Enterprise pricing available)

Price Range
Paying for one year upfront
Transaction fees

0.5%-2%

Transaction fees

0%

Transaction fees

0%

Transaction fees

1.4% + 25p (UK cards)

2.5% + 25p (non-UK cards)

(Rates are lower for Premium plan)

Transaction fees

3%-0%

Free Trial
Free Trial
Free Trial
Free Trial
Free Trial
Try Shopify Try Wix Try BigCommerce Try Square Try Squarespace

1. Shopify: Best for multiple inventory locations

  • Subscription pricing: Mid-to-high
  • Transaction fees: Fairly high
  • Ease of use: 3.5/5

Pros

  • Up to 1,000 inventory locations
  • Good shipping discounts
  • Marketing automations

Cons

  • Lots of fees
  • Limited customer service
  • Limited staff accounts

Suited to: Ambitious sellers with a growing turnover

Shopify is one of the most famous online selling platforms available today. The reason it appeals so widely is because it targets entrepreneurs and small business leaders with a growth mindset. If you’ve sourced your products, decided on your branding, and looking to scale up your sales, then Shopify has the toolkit you need.

This year Shopify released its AI writing tool Shopify Magic, which we found effective in crafting creative prose for our product descriptions. While Wix has a similar AI text generator, it doesn’t offer the same range of tones of voice as Shopify’s tool.

Shopify website editor preview with fashion model image
Shopify includes a library of free stock images for you to use.

We recommend Shopify over BigCommerce for sellers with dozens of inventory storage spots. Why? Shopify can cope with up to 1,000 inventory locations (on all plans), whereas BigCommerce facilitates selling and distribution from just four, five or eight (depending on your plan). Wix, on the other hand, isn’t known for its inventory management.

Shopify pricing

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Starter

Basic Shopify

Advanced Shopify

Shopify Plus

Price (billed annually)

£5/month

Price (billed annually)
Price (billed annually)
Price (billed annually)

£1,640+/month

Best For

Selling on social media

Best For

Starting a small online store

Best For

International sellers

Best For

High volume retailers

Key Features
  • Get shoppable links (URLs)
  • Product pages
  • Basic order management
  • 5% + 25p online credit card rates
Key Features
  • Sell an unlimited number of products
  • Up to two users
  • Sell in 33 currencies (2% conversion fee)
Key Features
  • 15 staff accounts
  • Third-party calculated shipping rates
  • Collect import taxes
  • Advanced reporting
Key Features
  • Faster checkout
  • Automate workflows
  • Security and compliance
  • Priority support
Transaction Fees

5%

Transaction Fees

2%

Transaction Fees

0.6%

Transaction Fees

0.15–0.30%

In terms of costs, Shopify pricing is not the most generous on the market. Although it offers a really accessible entry price point (its Starter plan is £5 monthly), that comes with 5% transaction fees when you’re signed up to Shopify Payments.

You’ll have to pay transaction fees and payment processing fees for every sale across all plans. That’s not the case with Square or BigCommerce.

We’ve gone into more detail in our Shopify review, in case you’re still undecided. Otherwise read on for more options.

Since our last update...

The new Shopify Subscriptions app lets you offer your business’ products as subscriptions. These subscriptions can be auto-billed with discounts, and your customers will be able to pause, skip, or cancel when they need to. Plus, the app is free!


2. Wix: Best for bookings and services

  • Subscription pricing: Mid-to-lower end
  • Transaction fees: Just the standard credit card rates
  • Ease of use: 4/5

Pros

  • Accept deposits and pre-orders
  • Bookings with multi-calendar synch
  • AI assisted web design

Cons

  • Maximum 50,000 products
  • Restricted storage space
  • Capped sales tax automation

Suited to: Services-based business leaders

Wix tops our website builder list thanks to the wide range of features, but dips into second place when we consider its sales platform. The reason is its selling features are slightly less generous – Wix limits the number of transactions with automated sales tax, for instance.

Still, we’re excited about Wix’s use of AI, such as the text generator to speed up content creation. AI assists in the set up process too, with Wix suggesting features you’ll need based on your industry.

red box outlines "generate AI Text" above a text box describing a recipe book
Stuck for inspiration? Wix has a built-in AI text generator for product descriptions.

Here are some examples:

  • If you run a restaurant: table reservations, food delivery, menu listings
  • Hotel managers: season-specific room pricing, list add-on services at extra cost
  • Fitness enthusiast: bookings (in person or online) via Wix Fit, subscriber-only content, automated reminders
  • Creative professionals: membership areas with paywall content, video streaming

Wix is better for the services industry compared to Square, because the latter isn’t set up for paid members-only pages.

Just the Ticket!

If you’re selling tickets, then Wix takes a 2.5% commission from every sale.

Wix pricing

Wix offers a 14-day free trial period on its premium plans, of which there are three ecommerce-specific options:

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Light

Core

Business

Business Elite

Price (billed annually)
Price (billed annually)
Price (billed annually)
Price (billed annually)
Best For

Basic small business website

Best For

A small online store

Best For

Expanding online sellers

Best For

Fast-moving online stores

Key Features
  • No online store
  • 2GB storage
  • No Wix ads
  • Free domain (1 year)
  • Customer data forms
Key Features
  • 50GB storage
  • Free domain (1 year)
  • Sell products, video, music
  • 1 auto backup/month
  • Basic gift cards
Key Features
  • 100GB storage
  • Free domain (1 year)
  • Sales tax automation
  • Print shipping labels
  • Sell in 6 currencies
Key Features
  • Unlimited storage
  • Free domain (1 year)
  • Loyalty rewards
  • Priority customer support
  • Custom reports
Take payments?
Take payments?
Take payments?
Take payments?

Wix is very similar in pricing to Squarespace, with Squarespace Business costing £17 per month (compared with Wix Core at £14 per month). But Wix could prove cheaper as Squarespace charges 3% transaction fees on its Business plan, whereas Wix charges no equivalent fees.

We’ve created a Wix pricing page if you want to look more closely at costs.

Since our last update...

Wix has made editing with Adobe Express much easier. You can now edit your media with Adobe Express without leaving the Wix Editor. You select an image in your Media Manager, log in to your Adobe Express account, then edit the image as normal. Once your edits are saved in Adobe, they are also saved in your Media Manager and available for immediate use on your site.


3. BigCommerce: Lowest transaction fees

  • Subscription pricing: Good range of options
  • Transaction fees: None (only processing fees for debit and credit cards from 1.20% + 30p)
  • Ease of use: 3.3/5

Pros

  • Sell on Amazon, Walmart, eBay
  • Limitless products, storage, staff accounts
  • Sell in multiple currencies

Cons

  • Limited product filtering
  • Extra cost for more storefronts
  • Few free templates

Suited to: Product retailers with a wide customer base

If your products are popular with everyday shoppers across Amazon, eBay, Facebook, and Instagram, then BigCommerce is a convenient platform to manage orders from all of these streams. With Shopify, you’d need to install apps (at extra cost) to achieve the same multichannel sales set up.

But the best bonus of all has to be the lack of transaction fees (which rival Shopify charges) on top of regular card processing fees.

Another advantage of BigCommerce is the opportunity to speak with its web platform experts on its easily accessible phone line. That means it’s much easier to access customer support on BigCommerce than it is on Wix (you’d need to request a callback through a customer service ticket on the latter).

It should be mentioned that BigCommerce is really aimed at larger sales operations. Meaning if you want priority customer support and assistance with API connections, then you’ll need to be on the high price Enterprise plan. Otherwise you can turn to the community forums and online guides for basic support.

BigCommerce pricing

You get a generous 15-day free trial when you sign up to BigCommerce for the first time. Here are the price plans:

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Standard

Plus

Pro

Price (billed annually)

$29/month (around £23)

Price (billed annually)

$79/month (around £63)

Price (billed annually)

$299/month (around £240)

Best For

Starting a small or medium-sized online store

Best For

Growing your online store

Best For

Scaling your business to new heights

Key Features

Sell an unlimited number of products

Multichannel selling

Coupon creation

Reporting tools

Key Features

Abandoned cart recovery emails

Customer loyalty programmes

Store credit card payment details

Key Features

Filter products through size and colour variants

Dedicated SSL security

Google reviews

Try Now Try Now Try Now

BigCommerce charges in US dollars, and its pricing is very similar to Shopify’s, although BigCommerce currently works out cheaper (at the time of writing) due to exchange rate differences. BigCommerce generally charges lower transaction fees than Shopify (if you don’t use Shopify Payments).

Still, on BigCommerce’s Standard plan, you’ll pay fees of 2.90% + 30p per PayPal UK transaction. Other payment fees apply, including Barclaycard negotiated rates from 1% + 15p.


4. Square: Best free plan

  • Subscription pricing: Affordable
  • Transaction fees: Industry standard
  • Ease of use: 3.9/5

Pros

  • Take payments on free plan
  • Integrates well with POS (card reader)
  • Automatic tax calculation

Cons

  • No membership log-in areas
  • Limited web editing on cheaper plans
  • Unsuitable for international selling

Suited to: Small-to-medium sellers and local businesses

You’ll likely have seen Square’s sleek white card readers at bars and stores in your neighbourhood. It’s a popular choice of payment terminal, likely due to its very low cost basic hardware. Its website builder product is affordable too – you can sign up to sell online with no monthly subscription fees on the Square Free plan.

website editor basic menu view
I couldn't quite position my image as I would have liked it to display.

The drawback of the Free plan is the basic nature of the editing tools. You won’t have as much design customization as you would with Square Plus. And you’ll have Square-branded adverts on your site.

But given how speedy, slick and clear Square’s free website builder is, we have little to complain about here.

Overall, though, Square’s sales features are not nearly as comprehensive as those of BigCommerce. For $79 a month you can subscribe to BigCommerce Plus, which is very close to Square Online Premium at £64 per month. But only BigCommerce stores accept payments in multiple currencies. And BigCommerce stores customers’ payment details for a faster checkout (unlike Square).

Square pricing

Square has three price plans to choose from:

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Free

Plus

Premium

Price (billed annually)

£0/month

Price (billed annually)

£20/month

Price (billed annually)

£64/month

Best For

Smaller businesses

Best For

Scaling up a small business

Best For

Customer service-focused sales

Key Features

Sell unlimited products

Instagram and Pinterest integration

Key Features

Free domain (one year)

Accept PayPal

No Square adverts on your website

Key Features

Lower card transaction fees

Real time postage pricing

Transaction Fees

2.9% + 30¢

Transaction Fees

1.4% + 25p (UK cards)

2.5% + 25p (non-UK cards)

Transaction Fees

2.9% + 30¢

Since our last update...

From 25 March 2024, creating and managing coupons will move from the Square Online dashboard to Square Marketing. Square Marketing is a free product suite of marketing automation tools. However, if you require advanced features like creating personalised coupons or sending coupons in marketing emails, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid subscription. If you’re already signed up with Square Online, you’ll need to recreate any existing coupons in Square Marketing.


5. Squarespace: Best looking online stores

  • Subscription pricing: Lower end
  • Transaction fees: Reasonable
  • Ease of use: 4.2/5

Pros

  • World class template designs
  • Precise web design editing
  • Unlimited bandwidth

Cons

  • Very few apps available
  • Transaction fees on Commerce Basic
  • No multi-currency selling

Suited to: Artisan or specialist curators with infrequent sales

Squarespace works well as a portfolio website, showcasing the aesthetics of your brand with classy web design. Think of your Squarespace website as a virtual art gallery: lots of white space, few features, and impeccable taste.

website section with image of child's craft activity, a small paragraph of text and lots of white space
Squarespace will suggest designs based on your business.

It’s not ideal for high-volume sales or aggressive marketing. Reason being you won’t get features like abandoned cart recovery emails, real-time shipping rates or even the ability to sell subscriptions until you’re signed up to Commerce Advanced (£23 per month).

That said, editing your web design is a really pleasant experience. Unlike many website editors we’ve tested (see our GoDaddy review for comparison), you can actually move every text box or image to the precise position you’d like.

Squarespace updated its editing experience this year so that a grid appears in the background when you click and drag design elements. This makes it easy to line them up evenly with others on the page.

Squarespace Pricing

There are four Squarespace price plans to choose from, all of which are relatively low cost compared with the larger platforms Shopify and BigCommerce:

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Personal

Business

Commerce Basic

Commerce Advanced

Price (billed annually)

£12/month

Price (billed annually)

£17/month

Price (billed annually)

£23/month

Price (billed annually)

£35/month

Best For

Early stage entrepreneurs

Best For

Small businesses

Best For

SMBs looking to sell online

Best For

Growing retail businesses

Key Features
  • Free domain (1 year)
  • Unlimited bandwidth and storage
  • Collect visitor data
  • Video maker
Key Features
  • Sell unlimited number of products
  • Free domain (1 year)
  • Free Gmail (1 year)
  • Pop-ups and banners
Key Features
  • Collect reviews
  • Product waitlists
  • Free Gmail (1 year)
  • Free domain (1 year)
Key Features
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Sell subscriptions
  • Local shipping rates
  • APIs for custom integrations

You may have noticed Squarespace pricing is similar to Wix, and they’re near competitors because of their focus on design and style. You wouldn’t come to either for complex inventory management and warehouse services, for instance.

Squarespace Commerce Basic costs £23 per month, while Wix Core costs £14 per month. Yet with Wix you’ll get 5 hours of video storage versus 30 minutes with Squarespace. You’ll also get slightly better selling features from Wix at this price point, including abandoned cart recovery emails, applying discounts automatically, and the ability to accept pre-orders.

But if you want to sell more than 50,000 products, you should choose Squarespace over Wix. And if product reviews are important to you, Squarespace is the better choice once again, as Wix limits these.

Since our last update...

Automatic subscription renewal emails have come to Squarespace. You’ll need to be signed up to the Commerce Advanced plan, which is the only plan that allows you to sell subscriptions. Subscribers to your products will be sent a reminder email 15 days before their subscription is set to renew. To qualify for reminder emails, your subscription terms need to be 12 weeks or more (if renewing weekly) or three months or more (if renewing monthly).


How We Test Ecommerce Website Builders for Businesses

We tested eight market-leading ecommerce website builders to evaluate them in terms of functionality, usability, accuracy, and aesthetics so we can make the most useful recommendations to UK businesses.

Our rigorous testing process means these products have been scored and rated in seven main categories of investigation and 47 subcategories – in fact, we covered 341 areas of investigation in total. We then gave each category score a ‘relevance weighting' to ensure the product's final score perfectly reflects the needs and requirements of Expert Market readers – and that's our product testing algorithm in a nutshell!

Our main testing categories for ecommerce website builders are:

Website Features: the capabilities and functionalities offered by an ecommerce website builder, e.g. blog functionality, SEO capability, and marketing capacity.

Sales Features: the sales capabilities and sales functionalities offered by an ecommerce website builder, including shipping, inventory capacity, and payment options.

Design: the aesthetic appeal and visual layout of a website created using the website builder. It encompasses aspects such as page templates and customisable themes.

Customer Score: external customer opinion; the feedback and ratings given by customers who have used a particular ecommerce builder – the market position and reputation a builder holds.

Ease of Use: how user-friendly and intuitive an ecommerce website builder is for people with varying levels of technical expertise.

Value for Money: the balance between the cost of an ecommerce website builder and the benefits it provides. It considers factors such as pricing plans, subscription models, and available features.

Help and Support: the assistance and resources available to users when they encounter issues or need guidance while using an ecommerce website builder. This can include tutorials, knowledge bases, and email or chat support.

 

Expert verdict

Our research found that Shopify is the best site to set up an online store. Although it’s pricier than most, it’s got the advanced selling tools you need to scale up in the competitive arena of ecommerce.

As we’ve mentioned, Shopify is best for SMEs with ambitious growth plans. Therefore we wouldn’t recommend it for budding startups without a clear product portfolio.

Local businesses that sell services, subscriptions, and paid appointments are better off with Wix. We favour Wix for bookings and other face-to-face business ventures, thanks to its convenient scheduling features.

FAQs

What is an ecommerce platform?
It’s a proprietary set of tools that allow you to sell things online, either directly to customers or, in some cases, to other businesses. More simply, an ecommerce platform is an online store. It usually consists of a website that’s customized to suit the particular product offering. Often it’s linked to other digital sales channels, such as social media shopping and marketplaces like Amazon, Google Shopping, Walmart or Etsy.
Which ecommerce platform is the best for small business?
Shopify is the best online sales platform for small businesses that are looking to scale up their sales. It scored 4.7/5 in our thorough research of ecommerce platforms, taking the top spot above Wix, BigCommerce, and Square Online.

Best suited to those with a clear business plan, Shopify has advanced sales features and marketing automations to increase revenue from online customers.

Which is the cheapest ecommerce platform?
Square is the most affordable route to setting up your online sales. You can actually publish a custom online store and take payments from customers without paying any monthly subscription fees. You’ll only pay when you sell (a transaction fee of 1.4% + 25p
per UK card on the Free or Plus plans). Note that you can’t accept PayPal payments until you upgrade to Square Plus.
Written by:
Sabrina Dougall
Sabrina is a business journalist whose career began in news reporting. She has a master's in Investigative Journalism from City University London, and her work has appeared in The Times, The Daily Express, Money Saving Expert, Camden New Journal, Global Trade Review, and Computer Business Review. She specializes in writing about SEO (search engine optimization). Having run her own small business, Sabrina knows first-hand how critical digital marketing is to building a client base and local reputation.
Reviewed by:
A head shot of Natasha Willett - a blonde woman in a work shirt with a blue background
For over 9 years Natasha has worked as a mixed method researcher working across a range of sectors from insurance and policy development, to business services and software. As a member of the Market Research Society, Natasha is an advocate for high ethical, commercial and methodological best practices.